Muslim Press has interviewed Victor Grossman to discuss the issues of Muslims who live in European countries, especially Germany, and the rise of PEGIDA and far-right groups in European countries as a result of Donald Trump’s victory.
He says “Trump’s foreign policy are not clearly defined, but most of the far-right parties in France, Netherlands, Britain and elsewhere have welcomed Trump’s victory and see it as a victory over Muslims, whom Trump has constantly attacked.”
Read the full text of the interview:
Muslim Press: How do you evaluate Merkel’s policies towards immigrants? Following Donald Trump’s victory, Merkel was described by The New York Times as "the Liberal West's Last Defender" and by Timothy Garton Ash as "the leader of the free world." What’s your take on this?
Victor Grossman: None of us can look into the soul of Angela Merkel. Many people think she was governed by humanitarian principles and a devotion to the principles laid down in the Basic Law of Germany. Some even suggested that she recalled principles of internationalism and solidarity taught in Eastern German schools which she attended. Others see less altruistic motivation, however. One view is that she, like the leaders of the USA, Britain and other countries, were eager to see the end of the Assad government in Syria, which, unlike others, did not accept their economic and military advance further into Western Asia and must therefore be thrown out. One way of achieving regime change was by arming and supporting the opponents of Assad, whether “moderates” or “terrorists”. Another tactic was to lure away a large section of the professional class, doctors, engineers, skilled workers or anyone else with the money to buy their way across the Mediterranean. Since the German birthrate is low, this would help fill the gaps in the ranks of highly-skilled German industry. And an influx of workers, skilled or not, could help in weakening and dividing the German labor movement and pushing down wages and benefits. If these different tactics apply, they do not contradict each other.
As for being the "the leader of the free world", German policy under Merkel’s leadership, like that of those who preceded her, no matter what party they belonged to, was based on two main goals. One was forcing a policy of austerity on the less prosperous members of the European Union, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Portugal, using and increasing the strength of the German export-oriented economy. The other goal was the expansion of German strength beyond European borders, regaining as soon as possible old Germany’s one-time great influence in all fields, diplomatic, political, but especially economically and militarily. This was evidenced by the deployment of German soldiers and seamen to Afghanistan, Lebanon, Mali, Somali coastal waters and elsewhere. It is a policy to become the strongest force in Europe and at least the junior partner of the USA in the world. Only if the free world is equated with Morgan, Chase, the Deutsche Bank, Mobil and Krupp-Thyssen or BASF can Merkel be considered one of its leaders.
MP: How has the condition of Muslims living in Germany changed during the past couple of months as the country nears election?
Victor Grossman: Unfortunately, definitely for the worse, very much for the worse. On the one hand, perhaps half of the German population was generally open-hearted in welcoming the huge wave of nearly a million mostly Muslim refugees and immigrants in the past two years; many Germans worked long hours without pay, heroically helping them to find shelter, to get meals, medical attention, and care for the children, while the government on all levels was often slow, bureaucratic and sometimes stone-hearted. But there was a very large number of Germans who feared the influx of people and labor power as rivals for homes, insecure jobs and social assistance. And all too many were governed by pure hatred for people of color, people with different languages and clothing or in any way different from themselves. Some of this nasty racism was an echo of Germany’s fascist past, but some was fueled by a sector of the media (including the social media) which tried to picture “Islamification” as a terrible threat to their culture (usually the hateful types had only the lowest level of culture). They pounced on every case the media built up where any crime was committed. Those involved were almost always young men with no families, no wives, and often neither jobs, connections nor hopes of finding them, a condition which applied as often or more often to young males of German descent. But with media highlighting this led to violent attacks on women wearing headscarves or people of color and also to bigots, alone or in gangs, setting buildings on fire where immigrants were supposed to settle or had already moved in.
One fairly new party, called the Alternative for Germany (AfD) has made antagonism to Muslims a basic part of its propaganda. It gets about 13 percent in opinion polls, and has won many seats in most German state legislatures and most boroughs of the capital, Berlin, and will definitely get seats for the first time in the Bundestag after the September election. Because of this, Merkel’s party and its far more conservative Bavarian sister party have moved further and further against the immigrants so as not to lose too many voters to the AfD. This has worsened the whole scene, not only for the refugees, many of whom will be deported, but for families which have lived in Germany for years, even generations – Turkish, Kurdish, Arabs from Lebanon, Palestine and North Africa and perhaps some of the Iranian residents or students as well.
MP: Do you think the election of Trump as president of the U.S. will have an effect in favor of far-right groups in Germany and other European countries?
Victor Grossman: Trump’s foreign policy are not clearly defined, but most of the far-right parties in France, Netherlands, Britain and elsewhere have welcomed Trump’s victory and see it as a victory over Muslims, whom Trump has constantly attacked. Whether their support for Trump will gain them strength or not in coming elections in France, Netherlands and perhaps in Germany is hard to tell. I think their nationalist and racist hatred is less connected with the USA than with conditions in their own countries, against the Maghreb people in the Netherlands and France, the Pakistanis in Britain (as well as Eastern European immigrants), and Muslims of every background in Germany.
MP: If far-righters become powerful in Europe, what could that mean for Muslims who live in countries such as Germany?
Victor Grossman: It could make life even tougher, probably worst of all in France and the Netherlands, where major candidates speak of “other people” in vicious terms, but also in the other countries as well. There will be stronger sentiment there, as in Germany, for forcing recent immigrants and refugees to leave the country – no matter whether their countries are at war – like Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Somalia or no, and to make life more difficult for them in Germany, with discrimination increasing.
The only hope is that leftwing groups and especially the union movement greatly increase their solidarity with Muslim fellow-workers and neighbors in opposing the racists, their common foes, and also opposing the military support given to militant groups in Western Asia and the large weapons shipments to some of the countries most deeply involved in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. This is vitally necessary, but not simple, with most of the mass media doing everything to prevent any such solidarity movement.
Victor Grossman is an American publicist and author who defected to the Soviet Union in 1952, and is now living in Germany. He writes the Berlin Bulletin. He is the author of “Crossing the River: A Memoir of the American Left, the Cold War, and Life in East Germany”.